Two Cuban doctors in Kenya kidnapped by suspected militants

Security officers and civilians stand next to the car where gunmen abducted two Cuban doctors as they were going to work, in Mandera county, Kenya. (Reuters)
Updated 12 April 2019

Two Cuban doctors in Kenya kidnapped by suspected militants

  • The operation happened as the two doctors — a general practitioner and a surgeon — were on the way to work in the town of Mandera, close to the border with Somalia
  • The two doctors, whose names have not been released, are part of a group of about 100 Cubans who came to Kenya last year to help boost health services

NAIROBI: Suspected Somali Al-Shabab militants kidnapped two Cuban doctors in northeastern Kenya on Friday and killed their police escort officer, officials said.
The operation happened as the two doctors — a general practitioner and a surgeon — were on the way to work in the town of Mandera, close to the border with Somalia.
“Today at around 9:00 am, suspected Al-Shabab militants abducted the two Cuban doctors stationed at the Mandera County Referral Hospital,” the county’s governor, Ali Roba said in a statement.
Kenyan police spokesman Charles Owino said the assailants used two Toyota Probox cars to block the vehicle that the doctors were traveling in.
One of the two police officers escorting them “was shot by the attackers and died on the spot. The attackers succeeded to abduct the two doctors and crossed the border with them,” said Owino.
The driver of the doctors’ vehicle was arrested “and is currently being interrogated,” he said.
“Our security officers are pursuing the attackers.”
A senior police officer, who asked not to be named, told AFP: “From the modus operandi and the fact that they went toward the Somalia border, we have reasons to believe that the kidnappers are Al-Shabab.”
The two doctors, whose names have not been released, are part of a group of about 100 Cubans who came to Kenya last year to help boost health services.
Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab militants have been waging an insurgency against Somalia’s foreign-backed government for over a decade.
Last November, an armed gang seized Silvia Romano, 23, an Italian charity worker, in the southeastern town of Chakama. Her whereabouts are unknown.
Police at the time warned against any speculation that the Shabab may have been involved in her abduction.
The Shabab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, have been fighting since 2007 to topple Somalia’s fragile government, which is supported by a 20,000-strong African Union force, Amisom.
The Shabab fled fixed positions they once held in Mogadishu in 2011, and have since lost many of their strongholds.
But they retain control of large rural swathes of the country, and continue to wage a guerrilla war against the authorities, striking at the heart of Somalia’s government.
The group has carried out a number of attacks in Kenya in reprisal for the country’s participation in Amisom.
Kidnappings in Kenya are relatively rare but can have a devastating impact on tourism, a major income-earner.


Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

Updated 15 December 2019

Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

  • MCB warning comes after Johnson’s landslide election result
  • UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons   

LONDON: There is a “palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities” in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has warned, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a crushing victory in the 2019 general election.
“We entered the election campaign period with longstanding concerns about bigotry in our politics and our governing party. Now we worry that Islamophobia is ‘oven-ready’ for government. Mr Johnson has been entrusted with huge power, and we pray it is exercised responsibly for all Britons,” the MCB’s Secretary-General Harun Khan said. 
The warning came as accusations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party continue to plague it.
Despite concern that Islamophobia is “oven-ready” for government, a record number of Muslim MPs were elected on Thursday, with 19 winning seats in the general election; an increase of four from the last election in 2017.
Of these, 15 belong to the Labour Party and the other four, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, are Conservatives. 
As the UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons, this trend was also seen in the number of Muslim women, with 10 winning seats. 
Despite this, Muslims are still not proportionally represented in parliament.
Only 3 percent of the UK’s 650 MPs are Muslim, whilst the country’s Muslim population stands at around 5 percent.
The MCB’s concerns about bigotry and Islamophobia were echoed on Thursday by ex-party chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first female Muslim cabinet member.
Warsi said the Conservative Party “must start healing its relationship with British Muslims,” and the fact that her colleagues in the party had retweeted comments from Islamophobes Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins was “deeply disturbing.” 
She added: “An independent inquiry into Islamophobia is a must — the battle to root out racism must now intensify.”
The Tory peer has repeatedly called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and told BBC Radio 4’s Today program in November that the party had a “deep problem” with Islamophobia. 
“Remember, we’re now four years into these matters first being brought to the attention of the party … the fact that we’re still prevaricating about even having an inquiry, and the kind of inquiry we’re going to have, shows just how dismissive the party have been on the issue of Islamophobia.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi (L) attend a general election campaign event in Bolton, Britain December 10, 2019. (Reuters)


Later in November, Johnson apologized for the “hurt and offence” that had been caused by Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and said that an inquiry into “every manner of prejudice and discrimination” would begin by Christmas. 
Despite apologizing, he remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women wearing the niqab in his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, when he wrote that Muslim women wearing it “look like letter boxes” or “bank robbers.”
Fourteen party members were suspended in March after posting Islamophobic or racist comments on social media, and a member who had previously been suspended in 2015 for comments on social media was due to stand in local elections this year. 
Peter Lamb was readmitted to the party after he had served a suspension and apologized for his comments.
Lamb, who has since quit the party, tweeted in 2015: “Islam (is) like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem.”
Yasmin Qureshi, a female Muslim Labour MP, has held her Bolton South East seat since 2010 and was re-elected on Thursday for the fourth time.
Speaking to Arab News, Qureshi said many Muslims were “very fearful and very disappointed” at Johnson’s victory.
“Generally, you can say whatever you want about Muslims in this country now and nobody is really bothered, nobody challenges it, and if it is challenged, it is very mildly dealt with.
“Islamophobia is a big issue and although everybody rightly spoke about anti-semitism, there was not as much emphasis and talk about Islamophobia.
“Islamophobia is not just in the Conservative party, it is actually in the establishment. It is especially present in the media in this country; most of the newspapers of our country are very right-wing and anti-Muslim.
She added: “It doesn’t matter whether you malign Muslims, it’s essentially okay, you can get away with it. That is sadly a reflection of the current state of affairs in the UK.”